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Last Updated:[20-04-2010 23:28:13 EDT] Zoom in Zoom out Back to Tradenews

ACTA to Play God on Online Activities – Overrides WIPO Role

tradenews The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) which will be released on Thursday from New Zealand is expected to put tabs on most e-activities on the basis of piracy or copyright infringement. Moreover, the accord is also likely to slight the existence of World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) as the anti-fake pact will cover almost every aspect of the functions of the UN organization without giving any room for public scrutiny.

In 2007, Bush administration began negotiations on ACTA particularly to contain several developing countries engaged in piracy acts, and to protect the interests of leading US firms which lost their price competitiveness on account of counterfeiting. Incidentally, the ACTA effect will not be restricted to internet activities alone but extends to counterfeit pharmaceuticals, designer merchandise, music, movies, etc.

Surprisingly, the final draft will not have the endorsement of China, one of the largest counterfeit producers. Hence, looking back to past events on taking action against China in regards to infringements, the trade pact is expected to encounter similar stalemate while implementing a likely ratified deal. Participants in the negotiations included Australia, Canada, the European Union, represented by the European Commission, the European Union Presidency (Spain) and EU Member States, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and the US.

Many ACTA dissidents blame the secretive or undemocratic nature of reaching the agreement by not revealing the details for public discussion. On the other hand, WIPO provides scope for public scrutiny with an added advantage of the inclusion of major counterfeiting countries in negotiations.

Meanwhile, the tech firms are understood to be apprehensive about ACTA’s secondary liability clause, which recommends the responsibility of copyright infringement behaviour of the user on the online service provider. The clause will possibly affect social networking sites, video-sharing sites and several other user-generated content sites including the online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia.

Last month, a statement signed by senior trade-union officials from New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and the US raised the question of intellectual property rights becoming an element in the free-trade negotiations. However that fear is put to rest by officials at the eighth round of ACTA negotiations calling the deal as a ‘standalone’ one, and would not tinker with FTAs.

According to sources, the draft will leave out three-strikes provision that would require border agents to search the contents of electronic devices. Experts term three-strikes a preposterous idea as it would virtually bring every transit cell to a standstill.

By Jose Roy

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